Marine Evolutionary Biology

Our group is currently moving from GEOMAR to Kiel University. Therefore, this page is under construction. You may also visit our previous pipefish group homepage at GEOMAR.


We explore sex differences, the evolution of brood care, and the coevolution of fish, their bacteria, and their bacteriophages in the ocean.

Why are there males and females, and how have sex roles evolved?

To address this controversial challenge in evolutionary biology, we explore the unique evolution of male pregnancy in seahorses and pipefish (Syngnathidae). We address adaptations in the evolution of pregnancy, the convergence between male and female pregnancy, and the interaction of males, females, and their biotic (microbes) and abiotic environments. Our goal is to help unravel the convergent evolution of brood care and pregnancy.

Does the enemy of my friend make my friend my enemy?

Coevolution is usually studied in a dual fashion, but this does not reflect nature. We examine evolutionary adaptation in a marine three-species interaction. Pipefishes and seahorses, bacteria of the genus Vibrio and their associated bacteriophages (small viruses that infect Vibrio bacteria). The phage can integrate into the genome and endow its bacterial host with beneficial genes. These genes increase the fitness of the bacterium and make it more virulent towards their final host, the pipefish and seahorses. We explore in evolution and serial passage experiments how the three partners co-evolve and interact with each other with the goal of gaining insight into rapid virulence evolution as a function of prophage and environment.

We aim to engage students in evolutionary biology and the marine habitat. We want to strengthen understanding of marine biotic interactions and provide insight into current research. Our goal is to spend time at and in the ocean with students, to provide a sense of life in the Baltic Sea, and to teach observing and experimenting with marine organisms in the ocean and in the laboratory.